2020, a wake-up call for Congress. Will it be total overhaul or slow death?


The Congress is in turmoil as we approach the end of 2020. Its chief strategist Ahmed Patel died recently due to coronavirus. Rebellion is brewing in the ‘Grand Old Party’ with G-23 pushing for organisational elections.

2020 was a really bad year for the Congress party. It scored a nought again in Delhi, which it successively ruled for 15 years under Sheila Dixit. Its vote share dropped to less than 5%.

Firebrand young leader Jyotiraditya Scindia left the Congress party to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, along with his supporters in March, leading to the downfall of its government in Madhya Pradesh.

It somehow managed to stave off threat to its government in Rajasthan. The threat still looms large as Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot recently accused the BJP of trying to destabilise the Congress government again: this means all is not well and the Gehlot government is precariously poised.

The party’s poor strike rate has been blamed for the loss of Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. It could win just 19 of the 70 seats allocated. Allies like DMK are now asking for justification from the party for seats demanded by it in next year state elections.

Despite the hype created by the party about Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra taking charge of the affairs in Uttar Pradesh, it lost deposit in 4 out of 7 seats which went for by-polls recently.

The GHMC almost became Congress-mukt in recent municipal polls. The Congress also won far fewer seat than the BJP in the panchayat polls in Rajasthan, despite a campaign by the party that the Modi government is anti-farmer.

Congress is at its lowest tally ever in the Rajya Sabha. Its MLAs across states are resigning and joining the BJP or other political parties.

Almost two years after the second disastrous show in the 2019 general elections, the party has not even formally convened to find out the reasons for the loss.

The cold war between the new guard led by Rahul and the old guard led by G-23 continues unabated. While Rahul and his team are dismissive of the old guard, the old guard wants Rahul to first perform and then claim authority.

There is still confusion over who should lead the Congress. ‘Rahul is ready’, ‘Rahul is not ready’ — this has been going on for far too long. The suspense over his comeback is never ending.

Putra moh (love for the son) has led Sonia to bat for Rahul, while a section in Congress now wants Priyanka to be given charge. G-23 wants a non-Gandhi to take over the reins of the party as public apathy towards political dynasties is growing in India.

The grand old party thinks that it is the default number two party in the country and as and when people get bored of the BJP, it will be the sole/ultimate beneficiary. It doesn’t want to force change but is waiting for changes to happen by themselves.

First of all the party and its loyalists are in denial mode: they don’t thing any problem exists within the Congress. This prevents the top leadership from acknowledging issues and taking corrective action.

The Congress party needs elaborate surgery but it is still relying on bandaids or aspirin, so to speak.

It has to start by dissolving all national and state committees, hold elections for organisational posts, dissolve the Congress Working Committee, create a margdarshak mandal and elect, not select, vice presidents.

The Gandhis must step aside for a few years like in early 1990s after the death of Rajiv Gandhi.

It needs to elect Young Turks and make each of them in-charge of one region of the country. Party leaders and workers need to hit the road and raise public issues rather than tweeting the whole day.

It needs to create a ‘shadow cabinet’ not only at the central level but also at state level. It has leaders with tremendous administrative experience. A lot of the old guard can be adjusted in these roles.

Why can’t it reserve 50 percent of all organisational posts for young (below 45 years) men and women? Some out-of-the-box thinking is required.

It needs to chart out a strategy to woo the Gen Z which doesn’t believe in caste or class politics. Currently, the party doesn’t have any anchor voting segment left on which it can rely having lost out the upper castes, the backward castes and Dalit voters to the BJP, and Muslim voters to regional parties.

It needs to work towards bringing people who have left the Congress back into its fold: people such as Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Jagan Mohan Reddy, the Sangma scion, and others.

Congress’s problem summarised in one chart

While the number of votes polled has doubled in the last three decades, the number of votes polled by the Congress has remained at the same levels of 12 crore (not a small number, but not enough to help it regain power).

Source: www.indiavotes.comwww.politicalbaaba.com

To sum up, 2020 has again highlighted the problems faced by the Congress party and it has to choose whether it will go for a complete overhaul or meet slow death.

The article was first published here.

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